By Thomas Griffiths

 

Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Glynn-Carney and Barry Keoghan. It is a film about the true story of the Dunkirk Evacuation during World War Two, where the Germans have cornered the British army on the coast of France, and the royal navy are trying to evacuate them before the Luftwaffe wipe them out.

Christopher Nolan is a phenomenally talented director, who has previously directed masterpieces like Inception, Interstellar, Memento and (of course) the Dark Knight Trilogy. He’s one of the few directors who hasn’t made a bad movie in my opinion, and therefore I had expectations for this movie to be good. From the opening scene of this movie, I was completely transfixed – the way this film is constructed is completely authentic, from the sound design, to the costumes, to the set pieces (which are, so far as I am aware, completely genuine). Christopher Nolan did such an incredible job at making this film as realistic and as immersive as is humanly possible, and it payed off wonderfully in my opinion. When the action sequences hit, they are brutal and frightening, and, above all, they are supremely authentic.

Many of the actors in this film have been in previous Nolan films (namely Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy) and what I was surprised by was how, for some characters, they barely talk for the first half of the film. The greatest degree of dialogue is given to Mark Rylance and his situation, which is peculiar from a certain point of view because he is probably the most ordinary character in the entire film. In fact, that being said, almost every character in this film seems completely ordinary in the long run, and that is a major plus. Even the most relevant characters you would expect from other films (say, the high-ranking officer caught in the crossfire) seems like a secondary character of equal mortality to the ordinary people. This reflects, perhaps, what Nolan was going for in this film, and that is depicting the situation itself in the story as opposed to depicting certain characters who are caught in a terrifying situation.

There are so many characters in this film (excluding the incredible number of extras who are utilised throughout this movie) that it is very difficult to distinguish a particular performance as the outstanding one, however my personal favourite performance in this film is that of Mark Rylance. This man was brilliant in this film – he plays a man who is sent to aid in the Evacuation, and takes his son and friend with him rather than letting the royal navy commandeer his boat. As he gets closer to the Evacuation, and his situation becomes even more complicated, I started to become more invested in his situation alongside everybody else’s. There are particular scenes where Rylance diverts from his destination in order to rescue crashed airmen, and it doesn’t feel like a stupid decision because it works for the situation that Nolan was creating.

Kenneth Branagh is in this movie, and he is also very good, but aside from him, and Harry Styles and Cillian Murphy and Fionn Whitehead, there are no other characters or actors who did a superior performance – which, I feel, is deliberate, and also a very good move on Nolan’s part, because this film, again, doesn’t focus on the people, but on the situation. Sure, I was biting my nails at several points throughout this movie because I cared about them and hoped they would make it out, but that only enhanced the fact that the situation was the focus of the film, as opposed to a major character arc. Perhaps the biggest result of this approach was the fact that, almost from the opening scene of this film, there isn’t a single scene where the Evacuation is paramount, and when characters aren’t approaching or enduring major danger. What I find most commendable about this is the fact that this is what it would have been like for the actual soldiers who fought at Dunkirk.

Overall, this film was an absolute blast from beginning to end – there wasn’t a single shot or set piece that I didn’t believe, not a single scene where I thought an actor wasn’t giving a convincing performance. Hans Zimmer’s score, as per usual, immerses the viewer into the environment and really sells the intensity or sensitivity of the situation. Christopher Nolan has created yet another masterpiece of cinema that I loved watching.

Rating: 5/5

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